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A women in Maharashtra prefers sanitation over gold

A woman in Maharashtra who sold her gold ‘mangalsutra’—the wedding chain and pendant—to raise money to build a toilet in her remote village home has earned kudos from people, and a felicitation from rural development minister Pankaja Munde. The womenfolk in her home were compelled to go to nearby fields to answer nature’s calls, dodging stares from men. Her husband Narayan ignored her demand, pleading resource constraints, and even her in-laws didn’t support her. Her feat earned admiration from not only her family but also the villagers, and as the news spread through local media, from people across Maharashtra and beyond.

For, ‘mangalsutra’ isn’t just another chain and a pendant, but dearest to a married Hindu woman as it is a symbol of her marriage. As a token of appreciation for taking forward Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Munde presented Sangita Awhale with a brand new ‘mangalsutra’, which she asked her husband Narayan to put it round his wife’s neck amidst cheers. Considering that the traditional adornment is seen both as a sign of marital status and a source of benediction for the husband, it took considerable strength of mind for Sangita to discard it. But, her rejection of a prized possession underlines the distress and humiliation which she experienced every time that she had to go along the village path to relieve herself in the vicinity. Her story is reminiscent of how the famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, threw away the gold medal he had won at the Olympics when he was still known as Cassius Clay because of ill-treatment he faced as a black person in the US. As in Sangita’s case, another medal was given to the boxer some years later by the International Olympic Committee.

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